Loving Red (#1) Alisha Costanzo
For Sergeant Severins Bouvier, silence means tactical planning and a large death toll, and he can’t shake how danger threatens him on the beaches of Miami, especially after seeing one of his associates in a local sandwich shop. Worse, the enemy seems fascinated with the woman he can’t stop thinking about—a woman determined not to trust him. Everything about Sev crashes through Kaia’s carefully placed boundaries, traps, and avoidances. Regardless of her lack of interest in the majority of men, the ones that did catch her off guard left a lot of collateral damage. Who better than a soldier to understand that? The problem is that she trusts him. Just not with her heart.
EXCERPTChapter TwoDinner with her family followed the same pattern it always did. Mom put out finger foods as she cooked the big meal—a traditional cuisine from somewhere different each week. This week Mom made palomilla steak with those little caramelized onions, black beans and rice with sweet plantains and fries, which they sat down to at eight. Mom made some mean Cuban food, especially here in Miami. They finished eating after nine, which wasn’t too bad since the walk to her condo took Kaia a few feet down the block.Of course, she couldn’t get out of there fast enough once her father opened his bourbon. He became a real PITA when he drank and hounded Kaia about her marital status. She wasn’t in the mood for it, not after she’d been reminded of the bear—the lone male with big enough hands to hold her heart.Outside her condo, where the beach meets the manicured grass before the patio swallowed it all in concrete, Kaia stopped, the weight of an intrusive gaze burdened her. Goose bumps broke under her hair and along her neck and shoulders. Turning, no one appeared to illicit that type of reaction from her.Shaking her head, Kaia stepped onto the cement slab that led to the back door of her condominium. As soon as her feet hit the solidness of the sidewalk, a warning tremor of fear tore down her spine, making her gaze shift to her right, to the corner of the building where a set of yellow eyes watched her from a deep, angular shadow. She made out the form of a black bear, taller and wider than the other bear she’d met.He bared his teeth, and a low snarl crawled across the sandy concrete, snapping for her on its way.Her legs broke their stillness, shoving her toward the back entrance, card key in hand. God, she prayed, let her swipe it right the first time. Trembling in her fingers missed her first opportunity as the bear lunged forward after her, barreling down the side of the building.She swiped again, the red light blinked yellow, keeping the lock in place. Kaia swore under her breath at it. The bear’s sour breath a solid mass against her face.She swiped. Green light. The click of the lock. An open door.Swinging herself inside, she shifted her weight, pressing against the door to close it and hoping for the lock to activate again in time.The lock clanked back into position as the bear’s weight slammed against the metal door meant to withstand the winds of a category-three hurricane—or so the sticker boasted every time she swiped her key.But the door groaned against the weight of perusal. Kaia ran for the stairs, leaping up them sometimes in twos, and didn’t stop until she sat safely against the inside of her condo door. She sank to the floor and waited for her heart and lungs to calm.With her phone in hand, she scrolled to the bear’s number and hesitated—they’d gone more than a month without talking again. But her hesitation abated as cold anxiety broke out along her forearms, she pressed call.The phone clicked after two rings.“Yeah?” Dev’s voice growled at her, and the wound that never fully closed tore wider.“What the hell would a bear chase me for?”A crash of wood breaking sounded on the other side of the phone, and he swore against her ear. “For the love of the Gods…Little Red, if you’re breathing, he didn’t want you that badly. Stay indoors.”“What is that supposed to mean?” Her voice echoed back into her ear. The click of ended call salted the fresh tear.Setting down the phone, she listened.No harrumphing of a big animal climbing the stairs.No noise other than the constant hum of the central air.That was no normal bear, and hers…well, no, not hers. Lacking concern, he didn’t seem to entertain the thought of coming to see if she were okay and not half-eaten.Relatively safe, she pushed herself off the floor, took out her newest bottle of raspberry-dessert wine, and helped herself right there in the kitchen.“Only ever been one bear in Miami crashing through my door, always on his way out.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of BLOOD PHOENIX: REBIRTH and BLOOD PHOENIX: CLAIMED, and co-editor of DISTORTED. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.
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